Monday, January 30, 2012


Simply put, Paris is a city of inspiration. Everything I see has its own appeal, from the looming Tour d’Eiffel peeking out from all corners of the city, to the put-together and stern appearances of the native Parisiens, to the perfect golden crust of galletes and baguettes in the windows of the countless boulangerie-patisseries, even the way that the language bounces off my ear drums like a song (that I sometimes have to focus too hard to understand).

Paris is everything you read about in stories. It is everything you imagine when you close your eyes and listen to the croon of Edith Piaf (just as I am now, admittedly!). And what is more amazing is that I am painting myself into the picturesque image of Paris each and every day!

This past Sunday, Kortney and I were the subjects of Janey’s photoshoot at various locations in Paris – the RER stations, the colorful tile mosaic of the St. Michel Notre Dame stop, the love-lock bridge. We put on our best “model behavior” faces and stepped in front of the lens. Here are some of the results:

My favorite location was the lock bridge. This is one of those things that really is a testament to how romantic a city Paris really is. The idea is as follows: you go to this bridge, which is suspended over the scenic Seine, with a lock that adorns the name of you and your lover, and you attach it to the bridge and throw the key into the depths of the Seine. There are so many locks that it is rumored that the bridge has started to sag from the weight! I, of course, had to do this for my boyfriend, Bryan, and I. Mainly because I am a hopeless romantic and with the idea that someday we could return and find it. It was something I could do while he is far away from me in the United States, working hard in Norfolk, and I am in France missing and loving him. This was my way of bringing a little piece of him to Paris so that he can feel like he is here with me.

It was really fun to be the subject of Janey’s artwork (you can find her photography blog here: In a city where people-watching is acceptable and encouraged, it was cool to know that, for one day, I could have been the subject of what people in Paris wanted to watch. Maybe they will think about the silly American girls posing for a camera and laughing self-consciously later in the day. Maybe it will inspire them, just as this city has inspired me to learn the language, to take good photos, to fit into the culture.

So many greats – Hemingway, Dali, Van Gogh – and their works were driven by everyday life in Paris, la vie quotidienne. They would simply sit in cafes, watching life go by and documenting all the beauty that their keen eyes could see. So as I explore, I try to look at it through an artist’s eye. What small, uncovered thing would they have found beautiful? Can I discover something new? What about Paris will inspire me?

I just want to let Paris stir me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Trials and Tribulations

NB: I will be including photos I have taken throughout my time here from now on. I am not the best photographer, but I have decided to work on improving my photography skills (by enlisting the help of my friend and photographer extraordinaire, Janey). This is of the Roue de Paris at the end of the garden of Tuileries next to the Musee de Louvre.

Someone should stick me in the chokey like Miss Trunchbull did to Matilda to teach me a lesson about slacking on my posts. I guess I can't really blame myself - I hope you don't either - because every day is a constant spiral of activity and new experiences. It is hard to catch my breath sometimes, let alone sit down and gather my thoughts enough to reflect on recent events in my Parisienne life.

Well, the coolest thing that has happened to me in the past week is that I have solidified my plans for spring break! My "study abroad BFF," Kortney (, and I are going to be schlepping ourselves to Prague and uncovering everything that the Czech Republic has to offer. Beer, hearty & meaty meals, and medieval castles? I am so there. Not to mention, there is an old Cold War-era underground nuclear bunker that has been turned into a quirky night club. I am going to be creating so many memories, it's hard to believe that my brain has enough space to store them all.

It has taken almost three weeks, but I think it is safe to say that I have comfortably settled into my life here. I have my group of friends (or 'salopes') that I surround myself with, I have the art of feeding myself down, and I am definitely beginning to get a grasp of Parisian night life. It is definitely different, coming from a college town like Boston, where everything is catered towards students, but still closes before the party even had time to develop. In Paris, the fête doesn't even start until after midnight, yet the Metro still closes around 1:30am! This is France's way of saying: "You either go hard, or go home because, here, we party until the sunrises and the Metro starts running again. D'accord?"

Hey, at least it's safer. Walking around the streets of Paris at 3 a.m. is a sketchy proposition. As Ted Mosby's mom says, "Nothing good happens after 2 a.m." I can attest to that - one of my many interesting late-night French encounters included a strange man frantically chasing my friend, Janey, and I into the Metro station, propositioning us for a ménage-à-trois with him for 50 Euro. Come on, man! No one is that cheap! (Kidding, kidding)

Every day here is like another step into adulthood - I am learning things, whether it be the easy or the hard way. A lot of times, it's the hard way. Like thinking we were buying bottles of alcohol for under 2 Euro, when really we just read the price tags wrong and they cost 10. Or being nice to a crepe-maker man just because he makes the absolute best crepes, so much so that he gives your group of friends his number, and then complains to you that you didn't text him when you return to his creperie because you cannot live another day without his crepes with Nutella (#awkward). Or even getting fined by the RATP police because you didn't read the fine print on your Navigo monthly public transportation pass about attaching a photo to your card and, with my luck, being singled out during one of their random checks. Such is life as a foreigner. There has definitely been a fair share of these...unfortunate times, but I value each of them as much as the good because I learned.

To be honest, I now understand how foreigners feel when they are in the US and I sometimes (heartlessly) laugh at them and their mistakes, the solutions to which seem self-explanatory to me. But, being in a country where you aren't fluid in the language, the culture is different, and being ripped away from the comfort of having Mommy & Daddy help with everything (although, they still try to do their best from across the large pond), has catalyzed my maturation.

I'm still far from being a true Parisienne woman, but I am definitely a few steps closer to being a self-reliant adult.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

La Vie Parisienne

The first week in Paris has flown by in a whirlwind of baguettes, fromage, and sight-seeing. It has practically slapped me across the face how little time I actually have in this beautiful place and how fast it is going to slip through my fingers.

This week has been, first and foremost, a discovery through my taste buds. I am proud to say that I have found the most amazing boulangerie with the freshest baguettes just down the street from me. I have reacquainted myself with my love for Nutella...on absolutely anything. My diet consists mainly of bread products and cheese. Oh, and crepes, let's not forget crepes. My liquid diet has been a learning process, as well, as I have grown a taste for wine - the most famous French produce- and am in the process of learning how to distinguish between the numerous types. In France, a good bottle of wine can be cheaper than a soda, and definitely much more exciting to drink. Whether sipping on a glass while doing tedious grammar lessons, or pairing some Bourgeuil with a fresh baguette and Camembert, wine is exactly what I need to warm my Parisienne-in-training belly.

If there is one thing I have learned so far in terms of la nourriture it is that you must always have a fresh baguette and a bottle of wine on hand. After that, life will be good.

Classes have begun for me as well, which has honestly been a struggle. It is bad enough motivating myself in Boston. But now, with a whole world of things to explore, I feel like a prisoner in my Marie Antoniette-esque study lounge, doing homework rather than uncovering every nook and cranny of Parisien life.

A positive, though, is that in this week or so, I have definitely seen my French improve. After being acquainted to lectures entirely in French, signing a contract that prohibits me from speaking English at any point on the BU Paris premises, and just striking up conversation with the locals, I am inching toward my ultimate goal of fluidity in French. (Although, I'm sure the Franglish I speak with my friends here is totally not helping. i.e., I need to prendre un douche).

As each day passes, I find my worries slipping away. I have already been offered a possible internship, I am starting to master the metro, I am working my way up to solidifying the Parisian girl "bitch face" to deter creepy men, and I am making a life for myself here. I have found that I am a pretty adaptable person which, without this journey, I would have most likely never been able to see. Of course, there are people and things I miss back in the States, but at this moment, I think la vie Parisienne is suiting me just fine.

<If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. -Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Paris, j'arrive.

Well, after a long day of travel and fighting valiantly against jet lag, I've made it! I am in Paris, at The Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, in my own private room overlooking a beautiful French park and Boulevard Jourdan. I can honestly say I am living the sweet life right now.

Of course, today has been somewhat of a struggle. Between an eight hour flight with the world's heaviest luggage, the longest wait at the baggage claim, to the slowest taxi driver on this side of the planet, having to remember how to form sentences in French, and showering in a douche where you have to constantly be pressing the button in order to keep the water running, I am definitely beat. So, I find myself in bed at 8 p.m. (or 20h00, if we are trying to be French), with plenty of time to reflect on the day that just passed.

The main thing I observed: I am in desperate need of brushing up on my French. Conversations can get uncomfortable when you are always looking up, trying to rack the Rolodex in your brain of French vocabulary buried under an inch of dust. I need to get on this pronto if I want the fatigue of formulating sentences to disappear. But, I am loving being immersed in this language, having it reverberate in my ears. It is so beautiful and musical! I cannot wait to just be able to rattle it off my tongue without a second thought.

Making friends was a lot easier than I initially thought it would be. While it was never a primary concern, it definitely was a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I might spend my first few days alone in a foreign country with no support system. Luckily, I have connected with a few girls on the trip staying at the dorm with me, adding a certain umbrella of comfort over me as I explore my new home. This is definitely one of the things that has made this drastic transition on my first day enjoyable - being able to laugh with friends who have the same concerns as I do. It makes me feel a lot less clueless.

As I sit here in my bed, exhausted, I still feel like I am itching to go out and explore Paris. There is so much to discover, more than I can cover in four months, and I can't wait to do it. Every second, the mental scroll of things I want to do is expanding and I feel like I am never going to cover everything I want to do. It is making me somewhat anxious because I have so many expectations for what I want to get out of this trip and I am afraid I am going to disappoint myself in the end. I'm just hoping that this very early feeling will propel me forward to be the best adventurer I could be.

Tomorrow is going to be my first day on Paris' public transportation - although, the Tramway is eerily similar to Boston's T - and my first day at BU's Paris Center. Every new thing I learn, even the most basic thing like how to buy the monthly Navigo pass, is an exciting milestone. I can't wait to add more facets of Parisien life under my experience belt tomorrow.

But, for now, I am going to read on my iPad until I drift off to sleep, dreaming about the baguettes I will see, the art I will ponder, and the culture I will soak in each and every day I'm in Paris. I cannot believe I'm here!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Quatre jours

I've been dreaming about this since I was in kindergarten. It seemed like a given, or a milestone that I would eventually reach because it just had to be in my destiny. Studying abroad in Paris is something that I set in my path but, until now, I had been taking it for granted.

I had visited Paris once before several years ago, in a whirlwind tour through six European countries in 20 days. France did not receive the special attention it deserved, so I plan to do it justice.

You hear all of these amazing things - it's the center of fashion, the food is fresh and rich in taste, the wine is unbelievable, the language is like eighth- and sixteenth notes dancing off a staff, the artwork is diverse and plentiful. My biggest fear as I am about to embark on this journey to Paris is that I won't live up to it's expectations for me.

It has taken me until today, four days before my departure, to realize that I am leaving. And not for Boston, but for another country. Another continent. I have yet to earnestly start packing, I have yet to say my goodbyes, and I have yet to really grasp the reality of this dream come true.

I can't really place my finger on what's holding me back. Am I afraid of being so far out of my comfort zone? Am I afraid of missing those I leave behind - my supportive family, my loving boyfriend, my loyal friends? Am I afraid that when I get back to Boston, everything is going to have changed - and I will have changed, too - so much so that I can't integrate back into my old life? All of the above. But, I need to put this all behind me because this is truly the opportunity of a lifetime. It fits every cliché and I don't hate it.

When I set foot off that plane, I cease to be simply Gabie, the BU student with dreams of Paris. I am going to be Gabrielle, the Parisienne-in-training with the City of Light in my palm and a desire to discover in my belly. I call this blog "Demain il fera jour," or "Tomorrow is another day." This will be my motto as I explore Paris - tomorrow is another day to learn about the city, the culture, the people and, most importantly, myself.
"Sitting there, alone in a foreign country, far from my job and everyone I know, a feeling came over me. It was like remembering something I'd never known before or had always been waiting for, but I didn't know what. Maybe it was something I'd forgotten or something I've been missing all my life. All I can say is that I felt, at the same time, joy and sadness. But not too much sadness, because I felt alive. Yes, alive. That was the moment I fell in love with Paris. And I felt Paris fall in love with me." - Paris, Je t'aime